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Ryun vs. Keino (was Track History)


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  • #61
    Re: Track History

    Best Miler? Who knows, but for what it's worth, but 3 years ago at the U. of Oregon, Arthur Lydiard stated that if Ryun had trained under his methods, he would still own the world record.


    • #62
      Re: Track History

      A lot of people feel that way about Ryun. The following link is to an article on Alan Webb, but the remarks about Ryun are interesting. People will always argue about the best miler, best 100 man, etc. But few argue about the talent displayed by Ryun. ... /webb.html


      • #63
        Re: Track History

        >I think that
        >Squire has decided that he needs some type of
        >criteria to put his list together, so he is
        >using the TFN rankings as the closest thing to
        >concrete as can be used. Theoretically.

        You can find my criteria at

        >Realistically, anyone that saw Ryun at his
        >is peak knows that Keino was nowhere near as good
        >a miler as Ryun. He was the number two talent at
        >the time.

        Hey, at their best, Ryun was not just better, he was A LOT better. Ryun's best lasted about 2.5 years, while Keino was consistently good over a very long time. Keino accomplished more in his career than Ryun did, and that's the way that I'm judging them. Any other way simply makes no sense. For example, Jim Peters stomped world-class fields by minutes when he was at his best, but few would consider him the "greatest" marathoner ever.


        • #64
          Re: Track History

          I think most of the fans here are looking beyond the rankings when they think of the runners they consider the best. They remember how dominant Hayes was, how dominant Ryun was. For all the talk about Elliot, how long was his best by the way? Two years? There is no way anyone can create a list that won't have everyone arguing. No way. Ryun was a better miler that had his day. Keino was a guy who hung around for a long time, but didn't really have the same impact as Ryun, or Coe, or Morceli, or El G. Probably because he was never a record breaker at the 1500 or mile.

          For overall record, I side with the guys that go with Morceli. Talent? Man, I don't know. Ryun is way up there.

          Squires, good luck with your list(s) and book. I'll bet you start as many arguments as TAFNEWS did with their all century team.


          • #65
            Re: Track History

            Here's an interesting thing I noticed. In his eight years in the World Rankings, Keino took third in only two races, and in all the others he was either first or second. Amazing consistency for a period of time without "rabbits". This is probably a reflection of his racing tactics, in which he really didn't like it to come down to a kick at the end.


            • #66
              Re: Track History

              Keino was a gutsy runner. He would try and run guys off their feet. The few times he would leave it to a kick, he would get bitten, so he knew he had to make it hurt for everyone.


              • #67
                Re: Track History

                Just to add some stuff about Harbig since several posters seem to think he had a short career. He actually had a fairly long career. He had a bronze medal in the '36 games and improved steadily over the next two seasons. Then he had the fantastic '39 season. In 1940 he ran 1.47 in the 800, best in the world. Then there were fewer and fewer meets and in 1941 and 1942 Lanzi was probably as good or maybe better. I can't believe Harbig could train much though.
                Lanzi still ran a few races in '43 but not Harbig who died on the Eastern Front in '44.
                Harbig's best times were phenomenal: 10.6, 21.5, 46.0, 1.46.6 and 2.21.5 in the 1000. His times in the 100&200 were top Euro class times in those days. For sure he would have been heavily favored in the planned Tokyo games of 1940. He was born in 1913.
                I have to say I disagree wildly with the poster who said that Keino was not as talented a runner as Ruyn. Keino had W.Rec in the 5000 the 3rd best time ever in the 10000 and won gold in the Steeplechase in Munich in one of his first races over that distance. I would not necessarily have picked Ruyn over Keino at sea level in '68. Maybe in a one race deal but these were the Olympics and weird things happen. Check out Strand in '48, Bannister and Lueg in '52, Ruyn in '72, El G in '96 and 2000, Keino in '72 for that matter but he got silver. Why would Ruyn be more handicapped at Mexico than say Bodo Tummler who ran 3.39 in third. It wasn't as if Ruyn did not train at altitude that year. I would have loved to have Marty Liquori of '70 '71 shape run in that race.


                • #68
                  Re: Track History

                  Ryun had a few weeks of altitude training, less than 8 weeks. Tummler actually had 16 weeks of preparation. Keino was a great 5k and 10k man, far beyond what Ryun could ever have accomplished at those distances.Keino was not as good a miler as Ryun, his times are proof enough, never mind his being dominated by Ryun when he was at his peak, and by Jurgen May head to head. Keino was a distance runner who could put up a pretty good mile.

                  While there are no absolutes, it is likely that at sea level Ryun would have run Keino down, even though mono left him short of top condition. It seems there are two camps on Ryun, people either respect his freakish talent and missed potential, or dislike him intensely, and revel in his misfortune. Very interesting indeed.

                  Keino was also one to come up with all sorts of excuses when he lost. This is something many people forget. Read Marty Liquori's book for some examples. When Keino ran out of gas and Liquori ran him down, he said he was letting Liquori look good in front of his people, when it was plain that Keino was dead tired. Other Kenyans like Ben Jipcho have remarked on this, and Liquori called it Keino's way of cheating his conquerors. He loses at the CW games, and then claims he received death threats, which no one was able to verify. He can't keep up in the 10k in Mexico City, and he claims gall stones. A great distance runner with sort of a kooky streak.


                  • #69
                    Re: Track History

                    Kingdom was special, but I have to go with Nehemiah.


                    • #70
                      Re: Track History

                      "Harbig's best times were phenomenal: 10.6, 21.5, 46.0, 1.46.6 and 2.21.5 in the 1000. His times in the 100&200 were top Euro class times in those days. For sure he would have been heavily favored in the planned Tokyo games of 1940."

                      I don't think Harbig would have been heavily favored. Favored, probably, but certainly not heavily favored.

                      I think people remember the 1:46.6 too much. People forget that the 1936 Olympic champion was still at the top of his game in 1940 (indoor 1:47.0m /1:47.7y-oversized that year). It was his first year our of college, and Woodruff was more than two years younger than Harbig. Woodruff's career was very similar to Harbig's, both in terms of the years spanned and the range of abilities. And both careers got shortened by military service.

                      To my mind, the Harbig-Woodruff rivalry is track's greatest match race to never have happened.


                      • #71
                        Re: Track History

                        >Ryun had a few weeks of altitude training, less
                        >than 8 weeks. Tummler actually had 16 weeks of
                        >preparation. Keino was a great 5k and 10k man,
                        >far beyond what Ryun could ever have accomplished
                        >at those distances.Keino was not as good a miler
                        >as Ryun, his times are proof enough, never mind
                        >his being dominated by Ryun when he was at his
                        >peak, and by Jurgen May head to head. Keino was
                        >a distance runner who could put up a pretty good

                        "A distance runner who could put up a pretty good mile" doesn't get you ranked #2 in the world SIX TIMES by T&FN. You have to be good, period. In their 1968 World Rankings, T&FN said that Keino had "never run as fast as as 3:34.9 at 7349 feet. No one else but Ryun had . . . anywhere."

                        There's a general consensus that Ryun's downfall was caused by mono, and his defeat in Mexico City was caused by the altitude, or by team tactics, or both. But . . .

                        Ryun looked great through the Olympic heats and semis, so much so that the Kenyans needed a plan. If he was no longer a significant threat, then why did Jipcho sacrifice himself? Furthermore, it would have been tremendously foolish for Ryun to think that anyone but Keino was his main competition, yet he let him build an insurmountable lead. If the altitude was so suffocating, how did Ryun run such a stunning last 300 meters?

                        I'm posting this to suggest that there are no simple answers to any questions such as "Why did Ryun implode?" He sure looked like his old self an unaffected by the altitude in Mexico City, with one exception: he was afraid to push the pace. This may have been the first time he'd had that fear.


                        • #72
                          Re: Track History

                          Think I'll jump in, seeing as this keeps going on and on. Ryun passed everyone else because they had made the mistake of chasing after Keino. They were dead on their feet. Ryun looked OK in the heats, due to his speed. He was mowing down the competition in very slow races in those heats. He won his semi in 3:47 or 3:49. Fast time for the 1930's. He wasn't putting together any fast runs, or fast finishes in fast races as he had before he was sick, never mind in Mexico city. Ryun had a little bit of running at altitude, he even says so. It was murder according to him and some of the other Americans. I can remember running in Provo in college, and thinking I was going to pass out, after trying to run the first 800 as fast as usual during the 1500. Ryun and Tummler both said they had never felt so exhausted after a race, so they did give it their all. Squires sounds like one of the Ryun haters the guy above mentioned. Either people love him or hate him. I remember the talk about the "Kenyan plan" from the Olympiad series by Bud Greenspan. One of the Kenyan coaches mentioned the 'altitude myth.' Myth. Sure. Tell that to Ron Clarke, whom doctors thought was going to die. Tell that to Ryun and Tummler who remarked it was almost impossible for them to walk after the 1500 final. Tell that to any physiologist. Altitude, especially over a mile, makes a tremendous difference. Ryun did what he thought was best, and it didn't work.

                          Now, if the race were at sea level, there's no guarantee that Ryun would have won, but there's no guarantee Keino would have either. In fact, if the Kenyans had not pushed the pace in Mexico, it's very possible Keino would have finished behind Ryun and Tummler.

                          I'll side with Liquori on this one. He doesn't think there's any way Ryun could win a fast race against the Africans at altitude. Vice versa at sea level.

                          I think Ryun possessed enough ability to compete today. Not so for Keino at the 1500. The mile stagnated somewhat due to Ryun is my theory. He was so far out there, I think some talented people went to other events. That's how his records lasted as long as they did. That's probably also how Keino managed to stick around. Thin fields. The 1500 was sort of in the doldrums for years, until Filbert Bayi came along and shook the sleep out of everyone's eyes with his fast front running.


                          • #73
                            Re: Track History

                            I don't think Harbig would have been heavily favored. Favored, probably, but certainly not heavily favored.

                            You are right, I should not have used the word "heavily". Woodruff was too good for that. I think we can agree that Harbig came closer to realizing his potential than Woodruff did. It was just that Harbig's times were easier to evaluate- for me at least- since he always ran with Lanzi in his greatest races. I liked what you said about the greatest duel that never took place.


                            • #74
                              Re: Track History

                              When reporters assumed that Neftali Temu beat Ron Clarke in Mexico City only because of the altitude, Temu shot back by asking them what mountain there were in Kingston, Jamaica (where he had defeated Clarke for the Commonwealth gold medal).

                              The altitude factor in Mexico City was undoubtedly important. It did not, however, cripple the athletes from sea-level countries -- they won 50% of the medals in races 800 meters or longer. 2 of 3 medals in the marathon were won by lowlanders. Ralph Doubell (Australia) tied the WR in the 800m.

                              Of the Kenyan and Ethiopian medal-winners, there were:
                              Wilson Kiprugut (Kenya, silver in 800m) World ranked four times before 1968 and won bronze in Tokyo
                              Kip Keino (Kenya, gold in 1500m, silver in 5000m) World ranked #2 three times before 1968
                              Amos Biwott (Kenya, gold in steeple) Came out of nowhere
                              Benjamin Kogo (Kenya, silver in steeple) World ranked #2 in 1967
                              Neftali Temu (Kenya, bronze in 5000m, gold in 10 000m) World ranked #1 twice before 1968
                              Mamo Wolde (Ethiopia, silver in 10 000m, gold in marathon) World ranked three times before 1968

                              With the exception of Biwott and possibly Wolde, none of these athletes were dark horses. They had proven themselves quite well at sea level before the Mexico City Olympics. They would have been medal favorites if the games had been held at the Dead Sea. While they obviously did get SOME advantage by competing at altitude, it is clearly not the only explanation for their success.

                              Furthermore, the most successful athletes from sea level were the smart ones. Gammoudi spent a long time in the Pyrennes, and came away with a gold and a bronze. Even in 1968, physiologists had to know that 6 or 8 weeks was simply not enough time to fully acclimatize to altitude. There are many reasons why Ryun, Clarke, Young, et al got beat, but to just say "altitude" is to ignore the accomplishments of the athletes who beat them.

                              If memory serves me, in his autobiography Liquori referred to Biwott as a "monkey". Certain people may have a reason to be sensitive about these arguments.


                              • #75
                                Re: Track History

                                Liquori didn't refer to Biwott himself as a monkey. Roger Bannister commented on Biwott, stating that he was the winner because of accident of birth, meaning he was from altitude. Trying to accuse someone of the catch all moniker of 'racist' to make points in an argument, especially something this unimportant isn't kosher.

                                Clarke's problem at any elevation was getting into tactical races when he couldn't kick. He just wasn't a kicker. Years later,when he had valve surgery, it was speculated that this may have contributed to his lack of a real finishing kick. I won't go into the details, but I doubt this is the reason. He was like Carlos Lopes in that regard. Strong, but not a fast finisher. Clarke probably should have bolted from the gun in championship races, but how often does anyone see that happen, ever?

                                The altitude did have a significant effect. The pre and post Mexico City records for most of the athletes cited above are not all that amazing. Citing the 800 as a distance event doesn't qualify, as physiologists agreed that the effect on that race was probably nil, the 20% less atmospheric resistance countering the lower level of oxygen available in such a short race. It was in races beyond two minutes that the physiologists stated problems for all runners, especially sea level athletes, would be noticable.

                                Ryun obviously did not spend enough time at altitude. Neither did most sea level runners. Gammoudi, as stated in a post way up the page, spent two years in the Pyrenees, and still won a very slow race. It's inconceivable that it was only mental factors that would lead to the times being so slow in the steeple, 5k, and 10k. The times for the sea level runners in the 1500 were OK. Keino had a great time, second fastest at the time, but he was still almost 2 seconds outside the WR of the day. As C. Nelson noted in his book on the mile, Keino did show physiologists that even runners in the 1500 gained some speed when it came to the finish because of the altitude. I suppose the trick would be forcing your body to utilize enough oxygen at that altitude to keep you near the front of the pack. It's doubtful that anything less than a year or so at altitude would allow you to do so. Ryun stated he had never been so exhausted, and was almost 5 seconds off his best time.

                                So, who are the best guys overall? Hayes is up there in the 100. Tommie Smith in the 200 and 400. Snell, Coe and Kipketer would be a good triumverate in the 800, hard to pick the best of those three, for me anyhow. 1500 would be a race between El G, even though he's got no Gold from the OG's, which are overemphasized anyone, one race every four years, and Morceli, Ryun and Coe again. These guys were, or in El G's case, are, incredibly dominate during their peak years, no matter how long or short they were. I agree with the few guys who left Elliot out of their picks, because he didn't seem to have the speed the guys have. When in doubt, go with Morceli. 5k. Zatopek, out of sheer toughness, with Viren and Geb in there. 10k goes to Geb,right now. That's a tough one to compare. LJ is Carl Lewis. TJ to Saneyev. Javelin is Zelezny. Discus would have to be Al Oerter, 'nuff said. That's enough usage of bandwith for right now.